Aspen, CO

One of my “new things” for the summer was our family vacation to Aspen, Colorado. My younger son said we needed to branch away from our usual beach vacation and see something different so we traveled to the Rocky Mountains and high elevation for a week.

We spent our first day on Aspen Mountain after riding the gondolas to the top. I can tell there is less oxygen here while we are hiking! What fabulous views!!

Our second day is spent at Maroon Bells which ends up being my favorite spot – so beautiful!!

This is our “Bonanza” shot from our horseback ride near Maroon Bells.

We also hiked along the Continental Divide and stopped at a deserted mining town, learning about the early history of Aspen before it became an area focused on recreation. Our last day was spent in Glenwood Springs where we hiked to beautiful waterfalls at Hanging Lake. Gorgeous!!

Of course, we ate well. I didn’t have to give up my typical diet of seafood or vegetarian entrees. The homemade pasta with shrimp from Ellina was delicious.

My favorite restaurant was French, Creperie du Village. What’s not to love about chocolate crepes?

Colorado was beautiful and the hiking was splendid! …but I still miss the beach….

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Fountain Square Food Tour

When I completed my original 50 “new things” in 2014 – 2015, I included a food tour in the Mass Avenue area. Subsequently, I gave my husband a gift certificate for another food tour but it took us a while to schedule. Fortunately, we are blessed with a gorgeous day the afternoon of our tour. We start at the Fountain Square fountain (makes sense) where our tour guide provides some history about this neighborhood near downtown Indianapolis. Our first stop is the New Day Meadery. A visit here was also one of my original “new things” and it is good to return. We have a flight taste of cider and mead along with some local cheese and charcuterie. Delicious!

Our next stop is at Three Carrots, a vegan restaurant. We start with a kale salad with tofu, berries and quinoa. It is very tasty!

Then we each get half of a banh mi Vietnamese sandwich. Their version is vegan and made with seitan. This is pretty tasty and I would come back here to eat!

From the Three Carrots, we walk next door to Siam Square. We start with a pastry filled with curry and ground chicken. These could be addictive.

Then we have plates to share with dumplings and Pad Thai. Our guide says their Pad Thai was voted best in Indianapolis. Yum!

Of course, we need dessert so we walk back towards the fountain and the meadery to Litterally Divine Truffles where we hear how the owner started her business and about the unique local ingredients she uses. Everyone picks two truffles to take home boxed. These are cute and very yummy!!

Now we are full!

National Portrait Gallery

Although I am fairly sure I visited the National Portrait Gallery many years ago, I’m counting a recent visit as a “new thing” since I have never gone sight seeing along with a business trip to Washington, DC.This week, I flew to DC for the National Housing Conference’s annual gala. I selected a flight arriving early afternoon to allow for travel delays. (I historically have delays flying to DC and would not fly there with myself if I did not have to…) This time, I travel on a gorgeous day and everything goes smoothly. I regroup after my travels and walk to the Portrait Gallery for a couple hours.I start at the F Street entrance and walk among the American Origins portraits, seeing early leaders like Benjamin Franklin. I move along to the Civil War and see Lincoln’s portrait and the Faces of Discord section. Then I walk upstairs through the modernism section to a special exhibit on silhouettes. A life size May Pole silhouette is amazing!Next I find myself in the Portraits of America’s Presidents. There is a line to see the newest Obama portrait of him sitting in a garden setting. I photograph other Presidential portraits. Next I walk through an early American section of liturgical art, western art and landscapes before taking another set of stairs to the third floor.The third floor has contemporary art and twentieth century Americans including Michelle Obama’s portrait (another line). This is such a beautiful building.I also go up to the third floor mezzanine for a feature of athletes entitled Champions and a feature of entertainers called Bravo!I finish back on the first floor with folk and self-taught art before exiting on G Street and returning to my hotel. I am blessed to have the combination of a beautiful day, two hours of free time and a hotel within walking distance of a wonderful free museum. I am also blessed to attend the National Housing Conference’s gala honoring housing visionaries. One of the honorees is Team Detroit and it is fun to see some of my Detroit colleagues awarded for their vision and hard work. Do you ever have the luxury of tour time during business trips?

Albanese Candy

In 2014 – 2015 when I was working on my original 50 “new things”, visiting the Albanese Candy Factory in Merrillville, IN was on my list but I never made it. My travels between Indianapolis and Chicago were for work and/or were with fellow travelers more interested in the destination than the journey.

So the candy factory made my “crazy list” as in, “you are crazy if you think that will happen…”

Now 2018 provides an opportunity. My oldest son accompanies me from Indianapolis to pick up my youngest son at Loyola University Chicago and bring him home for summer break. I am blessed that my boys are willing to indulge me and make the short detour to visit the factory.

This place is massive and we only see the gift shop. Albanese manufactures the “world’s best” gummies and chocolates.

In addition to making gummies and chocolates, Albanese Candy seems to sell every candy imaginable. This includes nuts and trail mixes. We peek into the factory through viewing windows to see gummies being made. There are also videos explaining how they make gummies and chocolate candies.

Reminds us of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory! We leave with gummi bears and some chocolate favorites like peanut butter buckeyes and coconut haystacks. Yum! This is definitely worth the detour and we hope to return.

Remember, it can be about the destination and the journey!

New Riff Distillery

I am in Cincinnati for meetings and our meeting host arranges a couple tours for local experiences. I choose a tour of the New Riff Distillery in Newport, KY.

It is interesting to hear about making whiskey. The distillery’s name has musical inspiration to indicate their new spin on the old song of making Kentucky bourbon.

We see how they grind up corn (from Indiana of course), barley and rye to make the mash that will be fermented and distilled.

They use water from their well to make the mash in large vats.

Then begins the fermenting process. We stick our fingers in to taste!

Our tour guide looses me at the distillation process as he shows us the tower where this magical step takes place. It’s OK – I was not planning to try this at home!

Earlier in the tour, someone asked when they opened which was a few years ago. As we continue through the tour and hear about the barrel aging process, I do the math and realize that we won’t be tasting their bourbon today. We are given samples of spirits and gin. Interesting!

We should all try to enjoy local experiences when on business travel. Cheers!

San Antonio

Every year since I’ve shared a “new thing” in my 50’s, I’ve shared a girl’s weekend. This year took me to another new city, San Antonio, Texas. We had a very fun long weekend of walking the River Walk, shopping and eating amazing food. Our days were mostly cloudy and sometimes we coped with drizzle but the weather did not slow us down!

We stayed at a lovely hotel, the Hotel Valencia along the River Walk. We had an arrival lunch at Acenar and toured the Alamo.

We did some shopping and picked up some San Antonio spices. Later we enjoyed dinner at Paesano’s and saw fun light displays floating on the River.

During our first full day in the city, we shop for souvenir jewelry at El Mercado Market and have lunch at Mi Tierra. Then we make some additional purchases at the boutique shops at La Vallita. We enjoy Argentinian food at the hotel restaurant, Dorrego’s. The next day is Saturday so we walk to the Pearl and browse the Farmer’s Market and boutique shops. We return to the River Walk for lunch at Waxy O’Connor’s Pub. There are so many fun restaurant choices and we eat well. We have a wonderful steak dinner at Range. I rarely eat beef but I do enjoy the lean delicious coulotte cut of beef and the cotton candy dessert.

It is so important that we find time to reconnect with our dearest friends. What are your favorite spots for a getaway weekend?

Tea Blending Experience

Are you a coffee or tea drinker? Tea is my drink of choice and I’m fairly knowledgeable about various teas and their health benefits. Honestly, I’ve become a bit of a snob about my tea and definitely prefer brewing loose tea over using purchased teabags.

A new tea shop recently opened in our neighborhood and I’ve been intrigued by their tea blending classes. I am always able to talk myself out of taking the time or money to treat myself to this, however. So I am pleased when a staff member gets me a gift certificate for the tea blending experience for Christmas. I get to try another “new thing”.

It takes about 6 weeks to organize this event on my calendar but I finally arrive at my tea blending class. We hear some history of tea and the health benefits of the various ingredients on our table to blend with our tea.

We have scales to measure 1 ounce of a tea base: black, green or green rooibos. Then we can add various ingredients and taste the tea until we have a blend that is our “cup of tea”.

The class provides for two 2-ounce bags of our blended tea creation. There are so many intriguing ingredients to blend with the tea bases. There are cards on each ingredient that list health benefits and suggest pairings. Available ingredients include: chamomile, hibiscus, lavender, rose petals, safflower, lemongrass, peppermint, spearmint, allspice, star anise, cocoa nibs, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and rainbow peppercorns. There is also bee pollen, licorice root and stevia for natural sweeteners.

I make a green rooibos blend with cocoa nibs and cinnamon chips and name it Mexican Green Rooibos. My green tea blend is blended with lavender, rose petals and cardamom and I name this blend Floral Green. I think they are both delicious!

What drink is your proverbial “cup of tea”?